Keys      About      Fact Sheets      Glossary      Larval Morphology      References

PLUTELLIDAE  -  Plutella xylostella (Linnaeus) *Non-Rep*


Yponomeutoidea: Plutellidae: Plutellinae: Plutella xylostella (Linnaeus)

Common names: diamondback moth

Synonyms: [too many to list; Moriuti (1986) details the taxonomy]; the diamondback moth was previously known as Plutella maculipennis.


Larval diagnosis (Summary)

  • Seven setae on A9
  • SD1 hairlike on A9
  • Abdominal L2 and L1 setae widely spaced
  • Abdominal crochets in a circle
  • Found on Brassicaceae and Capparaceae


Host/origin information

Larvae of P. xylostella are frequently intercepted on members of the Brassicaceae or Capparaceae from a number of countries. The most common origin/host combinations are listed here:

Origin Host(s)
ColombiaAster, Matthiola, Solidago
MexicoBrassica, Matthiola
PeruBrassica, Lactuca


Recorded distribution

A native of the Mediterranean region, P. xylostella has spread to every continent (except Antarctica) (Hill 1975).


Identification authority (Summary)

Because P. xylostella is cosmopolitan, orgin provides no clues. However, the host is helpful and identifications of the diamondback moth should be restricted to larvae associated with members of the Brassicaceae or Capparaceae. Similar species make species-level identification difficult in several regions; see the Detailed Information tab for details.


Pest characterization

(Based on Cavey 2001, Hill 1975)

  • Taxonomy: High. Species identification is often possible.
  • Distribution: Low. Plutella xylostella is present in the U.S.
  • Potential Impact: High. Plutella xylostella is a pest species.

This ranking characterizes P. xylostella as not quarantine significant for the U.S.

PLUTELLIDAE  -  Plutella xylostella (Linnaeus) *Non-Rep*

Larval diagnosis (Detailed)

According to Moriuti (1977: 29), larvae of the Plutellinae have the following characters: V1 of the head microscopic, V1 of the meso- and metathorax on the coxa, prolegs at least as long as broad, and L2 on its own pinaculum on A9.

The larva of the diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella (= maculipennis) (Linnaeus) was at least partially described by Ripper (1928), Jayewickreme (1940), Werner (1958), Peterson (1962), Moriuti (1977, 1986), and Stehr (1987). Being a cosmopolitan species, it was included in several keys to intercepted organisms and crucifer pests, for example, Habeck and Workman (unpublished), Emmet (1980), Weisman (1986), and Schnitzler et al. (2011).

The caterpillar of P. xylostella has seven setae on A9. D1 and D2 are on the same or seperate pinacula and SD1 is hairlike (Weisman 1986, Moriuti 1977). There are only two L setae and L2 is closer to SD1 than L1 (photograph in Schnitzler et al. 2011: 224). Abdominal prolegs of the diamondback moth are longer than broad with a few crochets in a circle (Weisman 1986, Schnitzler et al. 2011). The prothoracic and anal shields of P. xylostella have a characteristic pattern of spotting and the setae are dark and thick (Emmet 1980). Unfortunately, yponomeutoid larvae are poorly known and it is unclear how many of these characters are distinctive for the world fauna. Kyrki (1984) listed feeding on Brassicaceae and Capparidaceae (=Capparaceae) as an apomorphy of the "Plutella" group. Moriuti (1986) noted pore AFa is absent in P. xylostella; this is significant.

When compared to Prays, another genus of pests, Weisman (1986) considered the setae of A9 to be widely spaced in P. xylostella. He illustrated D1 and D2 of A9 on separate pinacula. This contrasts with Moriuti (1977: fig. 504K) who showed the D setae of A9 in P. xylostella were fused on one pinaculum. Weisman (1986: fig. 200) and Schnitzler et al. (2011: fig. 222) illustrated the anal proleg with crochets in a circle; this is incorrect, both illustrations refer to the abdominal prolegs. The anal prolegs of P. xylostella are in a semicircle (Moriuti 1977).


Identification authority (Detailed)

Moriuti (1986) discussed the recognition of P. xylostella in the Old World. In southeast Asia and Australia, Leuroperna sera (previously placed in Caunaca or Rhigognostis) is also found on crucifers and could be confused with P. xylostella. The mandible of L. sera has a small inner tooth, pore AFa is present, and the abdominal crochets are in a mesal penellipse. Plutella xylostella has no inner tooth, lacks pore AFa, and the crochets are in a complete circle.

Plutella antiphona is native to New Zealand and has a larva associated with crucifers (Dugdale 1973). Therefore, interceptions from New Zealand are best left at the genus level.

In the United States and Europe, Plutella porrectella is similar to P. xylostella but the former usually feeds on Hesperis instead of economically important plants (Smith and Sears 1984, Moriuti 1986). There are no sibling species in Latin America. Interceptions from crops can be identified as P. xylostella, but larvae from other hosts should be examined very carefully.

Because P. xylostella is cosmopolitan, orgin provides no clues. However the host is helpful, identifications of the diamondback moth should be restricted to larvae associated with members of the Brassicaceae or Capparaceae. First instar larvae of P. xylostella are leaf miners (Jayewickreme 1940) and are difficult to identify.

PLUTELLIDAE  -  Plutella xylostella (Linnaeus) *Non-Rep*

Origin records

Plutella xylostella has been intercepted from the following locations:

Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Palestinian Territory, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe


Host records

Plutella xylostella has been intercepted on the following hosts:

Abelmoschus esculentus, Achillea millefolium, Achillea sp., Aconitum sp., Agapanthus sp., Allium fistulosum, Allium porrum, Alstroemeria sp., Amaranthus sp., Ammi majus, Ananas comosus, Ananas sp., Anethum graveolens, Antirrhinum majus, Antirrhinum sp., Apium graveolens, Apium graveolens var. dulce, Apium sp., Artemisia dracunculus, Asparagus officinalis, Asparagus sp., Aster sp., Astilbe sp., Bambusa sp., Beta vulgaris var. vulgaris, Brassaia sp., Brassia sp., Brassica campestris, Brassica chinensis, Brassica juncea, Brassica napus, Brassica oleracea, Brassica oleracea var. acephala, Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra, Brassica oleracea var. botrytis, Brassica oleracea var. capitata, Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera, Brassica oleracea var. italica, Brassica pekinensis, Brassica rapa, Brassica rapa ssp. chinensis, Brassica rapa ssp. pekinensis, Brassica rapa var. parachinensis, Brassica sp., Brassicaceae, Bromelia sp., Calathea crotalifera, Campanula sp., Capsicum annuum, Capsicum sp., Carthamus sp., Celosia sp., Chrysanthemum sp., Cicer arietinum, Cichorium sp., Coccinea grandis, Cocculus sp., Colocasia esculenta, Coriandrum sativum, Cucumis sativus, Cucurbita sp., Cymbidium sp., Daucus sp., Delphinium sp., Dianthus barbatus, Dianthus caryophyllus, Dianthus sp., Dracaena deremensis, Dracaena sp., Epipremnum sp., Eruca sativa, Eruca sp., Eruca vesicaria, Eryngium foetidum, Eryngium sp., Erysimum cheiri, Erysimum sp., Fernaldia pandurata, Freesia sp., Gaultheria shallon, Gerbera sp., Gladiolus sp., Godethia sp., Gypsophila sp., Helianthus annuus, Helianthus sp., Hydrangea sp., Hypericum sp., Iris sp., Lactuca sativa, Lactuca sp., Laurus nobilis, Leucadendron sp., Leucospermum sp., Liatris sp., Lilium sp., Limonium sinuatum, Limonium sp., Lisianthus sp., Luffa sp., Magnoliophyta sp., Malva neglecta, Maranta sp., Mathiola sp., Matthiola incana, Matthiola sp., Melaleuca sp., Mentha sp., Moluccella sp., Molucella sp., Musa sp., Nasturtium officinale, Ocimum basilicum, Odocoileus virginianus, Olea europaea, Olea sp., Opuntia sp., Orchidaceae, Origanum majorana, Origanum sp., Origanum vulgare, Ornithogalum sp., Oryza sativa, Petroselinum sp., Phaseolus sp., Phlox sp., Phormium sp., Pisum sativum, Pithecellobium dulce, Prunus persica, Punica granatum, Ranunculus sp., Raphanus sativus, Raphanus sp., Rosa sp., Rosmarinus officinalis, Rubus sp., Rumex sp., Rumohra sp., Ruscus sp., Salvia officinalis, Salvia sp., Sechium edule, Solidago sp., Spinacia oleracea, Spinacia sp., Statice sp., Stromanthe sp., Syringa sp., Thlaspi arvense, Thymus sp., Thymus vulgaris, Trachelium sp., Treculia africana, Trigonella foenum-graecum, Vaccinium sp., Veronica sp., Wasabia japonica, Xanthosoma brasiliense, Xanthosoma sagittifolium, Zea mays

Hosts listed here that are not members of the Brassicaceae or Capparaceae need confirmation.

PLUTELLIDAE  -  Plutella xylostella (Linnaeus) *Non-Rep*

Setal map

Highslide JS

Plutella xylostella setal map

Plutella xylostella setal map

Click here to download a full-size printable PDF of this larval setal map

<< Previous fact sheet     Next fact sheet >>


Click here to download this Fact Sheet as a printable PDF

Highslide JS

Fig. 1: Late instar, lateral view

Fig. 1: Late instar, lateral view
Highslide JS

Fig. 2: A9; setae are labeled

Fig. 2: A9
Highslide JS

Fig. 3: Proleg and crochets

Fig. 3: Proleg
Highslide JS

Fig. 4: Crochets

Fig. 4: Crochets
Highslide JS

Fig. 5: Head

Fig. 5: Head
Highslide JS

Fig. 6: Hypopharyngeal complex, lateral view

Fig. 6: Hypo. complex
Highslide JS

Fig. 7: Mandible

Fig. 7: Mandible
  LepIntercept - An identification resource for intercepted Lepidoptera larvae
  by Todd M. Gilligan and Steven C. Passoa
  Identification Technology Program (ITP), Fort Collins, CO. Last updated February 2014.